Smoking images appear in youth movies

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By James Jo / Special to Viewpoints

By James Jo / Special to Viewpoints

Many of today’s youth rated films include smoking imageries. In fact, more than 75 percent of PG-13 movies contain smoking scenes and more than one-third of G and PG films have the portrayal of smoking, according to UC San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.   

Unfortunately, images of smoking in movies are influencing young people to start a deadly addiction to tobacco, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

According to the UC San Francisco Smoke-free Movies project, up to 44 percent of the adolescents start smoking due to tobacco images they see in movies each year in the U.S. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named tobacco in the movies a major factor in teen smoking in 2010.

With all the weight of the evidence, it is clear that smoking in movies is the most powerful pro-tobacco influence on youth today. 

Movies are a very powerful way to influence a society’s norms, values and cultural identity, according to the Tobacco and Hollywood Community Action Guide.

Movies affect the way we talk, dress and act in certain situations. Certainly, it is no surprise that smoking in movies has such a powerful influence on youth’s smoking behavior. On-screen smoking alone will kill as many of today’s kids as car wrecks, crime, drug use and HIV/AIDS combined. 

So what can be done to counter the problem of smoking in youth rated films?

The solution endorsed and implemented by the UC San Francisco Smoke -free Movies Project is called the Policy Solution. The Policy Solution consists of four steps to advocate for smoke free movies. 

The solution consists of: Rate new movies with smoking “R;” certify no payoffs, ensure that no one involved in the motion picture is benefiting in any way from having tobacco in the film; require strong anti-smoking ads and anti-tobacco ads before movies are effective at making audiences to think critically about the promotion of tobacco use on screen; and stop identifying tobacco brands, no matter what creative explanation is given for smoking on screen, there is no excuse for brands to be shown or promoted.

These steps when implemented will substantially reduce the impact of youth exposure to smoking on screen. All steps will avert tobacco addiction, disease and death. 

For more information on the smoke-free movies project contact the Tobacco Control Project of the Riverside County Department of Public Health at (951) 358-4977.

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